Vatican: Archbishop Will Meet With Wife

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

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VATICAN CITY — An archbishop whose marriage scandalized the Vatican has agreed to meet with his wife after a two-week spiritual retreat, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, 71, "will meet Maria Sung to communicate his decisions to her," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

However, questions were immediately raised over whether the two sides could agree on terms for the meeting.

The wife, Maria Sung, a 43-year-old acupuncturist, said that Vatican had set conditions, including one that was unacceptable: that a mediator from each side be present.

The Vatican, meanwhile, denied setting any conditions. Navarro-Valls said that Milingo had made the decision to meet with Sung and set the conditions "in total liberty."

"The Holy See cannot and does not want to impose anything upon the conscience of the archbishop," he said in a brief statement.

The statement did not say when the couple would meet.

Sung's spokesman, the Rev. Phillip Schanker, said the Vatican had agreed Tuesday to a private meeting, then backed away from that commitment. He also said the Vatican had set six conditions for the meeting but ・aside from the demand that a mediator be present ・would not disclose what they were.

"We are extremely disappointed," said Schanker, an official of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Family Federation for World Peace and Unification Movement.

The South Korean ambassador to the Vatican has been trying for days to arrange a meeting between Milingo and his wife, who has been on a hunger strike since Aug. 14.

"Maria is fasting for one purpose ・for a private meeting with her husband. Nothing else can be discussed," said Schanker.

He refused to say what other conditions were set out by the Vatican, but said they were all negotiable.

"If a private meeting is agreed upon by everyone, I hope it occurs tonight, so that this woman's suffering and this embarrassment and misunderstanding can end," he told a press conference.

Milingo and Sung were married at a May 27 group wedding in New York conducted by Moon.

Sung says she hasn't heard from Milingo since Aug. 8, the day after the Zambian archbishop met with Pope John Paul II after the Vatican threatened to kick him out of the church if he didn't leave Sung.

Earlier this month, the Vatican released what it said was a handwritten, signed letter from Milingo in which he said he had decided to return to the church and leave his wife.

Since Milingo disappeared from public sight, the Vatican has not disclosed his whereabouts, saying only that he is on a spiritual retreat and that he should be left alone to pray.

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